The Spanish believe meatballs have an Arabic origin. Albóndigas, the Spanish for meatballs, comes from the Arabic, al-búnduga, which in turn refers to the hazel shape of the balls.
While the Arabic origin is plausible, equally credible is the belief that meatballs originated with the ‘fertile crescent’ civilisations, and therefore go back over 10,000 years to the beginning of animal domestication.
Meatballs are prominent in the food cultures of the Mediterranean basin, in northern Africa, in southern Europe, the Balkans, the Causcaus, Anatolia and the Levant.
Spain, with its own food origins rooted in Arabic food culture, shares many of the meatball recipes found across the entire region, but Spanish meatball traditions utilise the method of finishing and serving meatballs in tomato sauce.
Like the countries of the east, the Spanish also make meatballs from beans and fish, and do not always resort to the use of eggs for binding. And their meatballs can be baked as well as fried.
- 500 g beef / veal
- 500 g lamb / pork
- 300 g Manchego cheese, grated
- 250 g scallions / spring onions, chopped small
- 100 g cured bacon / ham, cubed small
- 2 slices fried bread / stale bread, soaked in equally amount of milk (optional)
- 60 ml olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed, chopped
- 4 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 5 g black pepper
- 5 g sea salt
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 600 ml meat stock
- 300 g scallions / spring onions, chopped
- 50 g cured bacon / ham, cubed small
- 45 g almonds, ground
- 45 ml olive oil
Sauté spring onions in the oil with the bacon or ham, add the almonds and coat in the mixture. Gradually add the stock, heating gently until the sauce starts to form.
- 750 g tomatoes reduced in 250 ml chicken stock
Sauté garlic and scallions in half of the oil, set aside to cool. Combine the minced meat until the fat starts to separate, put in a bowl with the cheese, garlic-scallion mixture, bacon and seasonings. Mix, then shape into 60 g balls. Brown in remaining oil in a frying pan over a high heat or bake in a 180ºC oven for 30 minutes.
Serve with choice of sauces.